Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wine Review: 2011 Caymus Conundrum

I've long been a fan of the Wagner Family's wines, and when we travelled to Napa a couple of years back, their tasting room was on my "must visit" list. 

Conundrum has long been one of the Wagner Family's more affordable wines, usually coming in around $20 (although I bought mine when it was on sale at a competitor's grand opening, and I knew they were selling it below cost).   Chuck Wagner is one of the original Napa pioneers, and Conundrum was a pioneering wine when it was first released over 20 years ago.  Back then, proprietary, multi-varietal, blended wines were more the provenance of jug and box wines.  But the Wagners wanted something that transcended the limitations of a single varietal wine, something with a broader appeal, yet something still made with quality and distinction in mind.

What's in a name?  Well, Conundrum is just that; a proprietary blend of white grapes that are unnamed and in mysterious proportion.  It was originally meant to teasingly confuse those with surgical palates, who are able to identify grapes, regions, vintages and winemaking techniques with a few sniffs and sips.  To make things more interesting, the blend changes from year to year, so the wine is made with a style in mind rather than assembled from a strict recipe.  Although no grapes are named on the bottle, a little research tells me that there are five main players in the mix: Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli and Viognier.   There are probably others that find their way in from year to year, but really, what this wine is made from is pretty much unimportant.  How this wine tastes is what is focused on.

The color is of golden straw, and fruit notes abound on the nose.  I detected mostly tropical and tree fruits: mango, pineapple and overripe peach, and a trace of mineral intertwined with florality.  In the mouth, it displayed a nice viscosity, what I'd say was a medium + body.  A pleasant sweetness, flavors of white flowers, citrus and the same overripe peach dominate the palate, with a seam of acidity that keeps things lively. 

That pleasant sweetness makes Conundrum a great cocktail wine.  This could also step in for all the roles usually delegated to Riesling: pair it with spicy food, enjoy it during your lunch hour with a light meal, have the girls over for a break on the deck, pour it for Mee-Maw, who only likes sweet wines.   The sweetness and body make this a versatile food wine, and I can see it playing well with a variety of different cheeses and white meats.   If you're the type who only enjoys muscular, tannic reds, this won't be for you.  But I see this as being in the "sweet wine for people who don't like sweet wine" category.   It has sweetness, but also complexity and depth. 

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